There are those who bridle at the idea of Senator Fabian Manning trundling around the province, handing out federal government cash under any number of pretexts, like this one, which he was to undertake today: “The Honourable Keith Hutchings, Minister of Innovation, Business and Rural Development, and Senator Fabian Manning on behalf of the Honourable Bernard Valcourt, Associate Minister of National Defence and Minister of State (Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency) (La Francophonie), will make provincial-federal funding announcements for projects in Goulds and Holyrood tomorrow (Tuesday, January 8). The first event will take place at Goulds Lions Arena at 10:00 a.m. and the second event will be at the Star of the Sea in Holyrood at 1:00 p.m.”
The detractors point out, quite rightly, that the federal government is essentially trying to set Manning up as a faux member of Parliament, the government’s representative on the ground, and is perhaps attempting to make him a saleable candidate in any future federal election Manning might choose to contest.
It is, after all, a strategy that the feds tried and Manning failed at last time around, even though, in the years leading up to the last federal election, Manning doled out more federal cash than a billionaire who had suddenly found religion. Every time you turned around, Manning was cutting a ribbon or a cheque.
It was, by the election call, so transparent it was almost abusive, and I think I may have said something along those same lines in a column myself at the time.
But the more I think about it, the more I can’t help but feel, in some small way, Manning’s unelected status is exactly, precisely in keeping with the federal cash-delivery duties he’s been tasked with.
It might be even more unseemly for an elected politician to be trundling around on the taxpayers’ dime, gleefully tossing out dollars to ensure re-election.
What you get …
With Manning, you get exactly what you see: a comfortable and financially secure, fully pensionable and unelected political appointee both taking your money for a salary and handing it out to others as if he was throwing alms.
In its own way, it is the modern equivalent to having nobles throwing loaves of bread from their moving carriages to the assembled and hungry poor. By the time they’re done fighting each other for the scattered loaves, Senator Manning can be back on the plane.
You don’t have to have any comfortable fiction about Manning living the same kind of life or having the same set of employment fears as anyone else, nor do you have to insulate yourself with the tired trope of having the cash delivered by one of those self-proclaimed “overworked and underappreciated members of Parliament.”
No, Senator Manning is a well-fed appointee gifting back money that the government harvested from all the rest of us.
In the process, it may show a whole lot about how our federal government feels about us.
First, in its most blunt form, it shows that the government thinks we’re all as stupid as house cats — because Manning shows up every day with the food bag, we’re supposed to follow him around meowing and rubbing votes on his legs in some future election.
Second, it shows we’re dumber than house cats, especially if we believe he won’t quit the Senate and, if he doesn’t win but the Tories do, that he’ll end up right back in the Red Chamber.
And thirdly, but most importantly, it shows that in one critical way, the new Tories are just like every other federal government we’ve ever had, even the wallet-happy Liberals: the Tories think we should and will reward them for handing back a few of our own dollars.
There’s no work for the peasants? Let them eat announcements. Do send Lord Manning out with a few.
Russell Wangersky is the editorial page
editor of The Telegram. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.